Pray and Don’t Lose Heart; Luke 18:1-8

You can listen to the sermon audio here

Main Point: We all need help to keep praying as we ought.

In life, some things are easy to do, some things are hard to do, and other things cannot be done on your own. I can tie my shoes on my own. I’ve got that. But while remodeling our house I have run into numerous things I struggle to do alone and other things simply I cannot do by myself. I cannot hang the first course of 12’ hardie board siding. I can’t do that by myself. I need help. Years ago I watched my dad try and try and try and eventually quit smoking. He couldn’t do it alone. Big projects and kicking an addiction are all hard to do without help. We get that. But did you realize we all need help to pray?

You are not supposed to pray on your own and prayer is never presented in the bible as something which comes easily. A powerful, fruitful prayer life is hard won. We need help. What I’m saying is it encourages me to see Jesus encouraging his disciples to pray. Jesus knew his disciples needed help praying. They needed more than just instructions concerning how to pray. They needed encouragement to keep praying. Their life was hard and they often suffered in unfair or even unjust ways. Where is God in that? Why keep praying if God isn’t going to do what is right?

You and I as Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ. We suffer, our brothers and sisters suffer, in unjust conditions. As disciples we also need help to pray. Today, from Luke 18, we are going to receive encouragement for prayer. Our parable for today, the parable of the persistent widow, is one of the compare and contrast parables. Jesus wants us to look at the unrighteous judge and know if that guy delivers justice how much more will God himself deliver justice.

Let’s read the parable- Luke 18:1-8

I. The bad guy delivers

We need to follow Jesus’ logic in this parable. We start with the unrighteous judge

  • The unrighteous judge

As a judge it is his responsibility to decide between cases and uphold what is right. From the sound of the parable he is what we call a civil court judge. He doesn’t hear criminal cases. He hears disputes. The problem is the only thing he cares about is himself.

He has no fear of God. This means the judge has no higher standard than himself. He is his own guide. No one can appeal to justice or right and wrong or moral law because this judge sees no basis for moral law. To make matters worse this judge doesn’t care about the people under his authority. He doesn’t care if you are hurt or taken advantage of by another. The weak matter nothing to him and the strong matter nothing to him.

Jesus is emphasizing the fact that the citizens could not appeal to justice with this judge and the citizens could not appeal to love with this judge. Love and justice have become meaningless. So if someone wrongs you, you could go to the judge about it but there was no telling what the judge might do or if he will do anything at all. The people of this city are on their own being overseen by a useless even harmful judge.

Connect this judge with God. Many of our friends and family view God this way. God doesn’t give a rip. Maybe you view God this way. You stopped praying or have never prayed because God isn’t there or doesn’t care. If that’s you, you are safe here. We want to help you and encourage you and walk slowly with you as you figure God out.

That’s the unrighteous judge- unpredictable at best and harmful at worst. So don’t expect anything good from him. Now here comes our next character the persistent widow.

  • The persistent widow

In this parable we have a powerful person- the judge- and a powerless person- the widow. As a widow she would have little to no rights or relationships for protection. She would struggle to make it by and when wronged there would be none to defend her. Well, the judge should defend her and protect her but as we have seen this judge isn’t that type.

In verse 3 we see she has an adversary. Someone has brought an accusation against her. In Luke 20:47 we see Jesus calling out the scribes for devouring widows’ houses. So it’s not hard to imagine a situation where someone in the city with power and influence is trying to take advantage of the weak and helpless position of this widow. It is possible someone is trying to take her property by some legal maneuver.

What does she do? She keeps going to the judge saying, “Give me justice against my adversary.” She is being wronged and wants the judge to do his job and protect her.

Let’s pause for a moment here. There are many encouraging application points for this parable but let’s not move too quickly past the immediate situation. Jesus is speaking into a situation where his disciples are being wronged. So don’t think first about praying for a new car. Think first about your car being confiscated because you are a Christian. How should you respond? How should you pray? Think about your business being shut down because you are a Christian. How should you respond? How should you pray? Think about your house being confiscated because you are a Christian. How should you respond? How should you pray? Jesus wants us to pray and not lose heart when justice is thwarted. Now let’s get back to the parable.

How does the judge initially respond to her repeatedly coming and asking for justice? Verse 4, for a while he refused her. Not going to do it. Not going to listen. I don’t care. But then he thinks to himself. It’s like the prodigal son coming to his senses in the pig pin. This is not comfortable for me. I should do something about it. This judge is like the prodigal son. He is also like the unrighteous steward in chapter 16 who comes up with a plan to make his friends receive him into their houses after he’s been fired. Jesus tells parables about people thinking. You and I should try to do a little more thinking about our current situation.

So the unrighteous judge says to himself, verse 4, “Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”

He’s clear the reason he is giving her justice is so that she will leave him alone. He doesn’t care about what is right and he doesn’t care about her. He only wants to get her off his back. So because she was annoying she finally received what she wanted. The unrighteous judge gave her justice. He delivered. Now let’s think about God.

II. God will deliver

Look at verse 6, “And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.” Here is our first encouragement to pray.

  • Pray because God is just and loving

These are two attributes of God which are absolutely necessary for prayer. If you lose either of these you will derail prayer. When wronged we need to know God has our backs. When the wrong continues unchallenged we need to know with absolute surety God will deliver justice.

Look at verse 7, God will give justice to his elect. Verse 8, he will give justice to them speedily.

Romans 12:19, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” [See Deuteronomy 32:35; Hebrews 10:30; Psalm 94:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:6]. The storyline of Scripture reveals many things about God but one of the major truths from all of Scripture is God can be trusted to punish evil. God will uphold justice.

Now this truth can lead us to think God is concerned for the right thing but maybe he is not concerned for people. Or God is going to give justice to those people but he can’t be trusted to give justice to me. We need to know God is just AND loving towards each of us.

Look back at Luke 18:7, “Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?” Sometimes in Scripture, like in Romans 9, a reference to election is a reference to God’s freewill choice of a particular person to be saved. Other times, like here in Luke 18, a reference to election is a reference to God’s loving relationship with a certain person or people. Colossians 2:12 gives instructions to God’s chosen ones; chosen ones are holy and loved. Think of the shepherd loving his lost sheep. Think of the woman searching for her treasured coin. Think of the father welcoming home his beloved son. Christians, the elect, God loves you.

Romans 8:31 asks, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Some of us struggle to pray because we struggle to believe God loves us. In these times do not look to your circumstances for proof of God’s love. Your circumstances are constantly changing. Instead look to the atoning work of Christ for you. Look at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for your salvation. There you will see how much God loves you. Pray because God is just and loving and

  • Don’t lose heart because God will give you justice

Pray because God is better than the unrighteous judge. If that scum bag gave the widow justice won’t the faithful God give his people justice? He certainly will. Remember, Jesus is not only concerned that you keep on praying, Jesus is concerned that we do not lose heart. Jesus is concerned about you and me becoming discouraged. Now why might Jesus’ disciples become discouraged and give up on prayer?

We must read Scripture in context. Luke 18 comes right after Luke 17 for a reason. Jesus had just been teaching the Pharisees and his disciples about the end of history. I’ll summarize this way, when this age comes to an end things are going to get rough. There will be suffering and rejection. God’s people will be mocked and ignored as in the day of Noah. It’s going to be like the days of Sodom when God’s people are abused by their neighbors. It’s going to be hard. Life is going to be harder than we know it now.

Don’t be surprised by difficulty. Don’t be surprised by suffering. It’s going to be rough. You will be wronged. You will be taken advantage of without any earthly course for justice. The judges aren’t going to care about God and the judges aren’t going to care about you. Will you turn your back on God?

Listen to what Jesus asks in verse 8, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Will you fall away because you don’t get your way?

Luke 17 is so important for understanding Luke 18 because Jesus is reminding us that we will receive justice. God will do the right thing and we need to know when he will right every wrong. Justice will be finally served at the return of Jesus Christ. When Jesus comes back God will give justice to his elect. And Jesus is coming soon. God will not delay long over his own. Jesus will come speedily and God will give justice to them.

I think of those martyred during the Tribulation. Turn with me to Revelation 6:9-11.

When will God judge? When will God avenge their blood? He will judge and avenge when Jesus returns. Church, God is surely working. He cares for us. But God is not working on our timetables.  God is working on his own time table.

God is surely working. Jesus is coming. Therefore, do not lose heart. God will give you justice. I don’t know your situation and I don’t know the ways you are being wronged but I know justice is coming. Don’t give up. Don’t harden your heart toward God. Trust that he is just and trust that he is loving regardless of how your prayers are being answered right now.

III. Let’s apply this parable

  • Pray and don’t lose heart

Jesus wants to encourage you to pray. I hope you see and feel the benefit of a just and loving God. I hope you want to keep praying because of what you have seen in the word today. It may be you need encouragement to keep paying while suffering in an unjust situation. It may also be you need encouragement to keep praying for your Christian brothers and sisters as they suffer in an unjust situation. We are to remember them as if in prison with them (Heb 13:3).

I think of our sister Asia Bibi as she suffers in Pakistan waiting trial[1].  She is certainly tempted to lose heart and stop praying. We need to be there for her.

As you pray remember

  • The fact that we need help praying means we need to gather often with the church.

This church exists to help others treasure Christ. In every Sunday School class, midweek meeting, worship gathering, and one on one get together we want to give one another more reasons to pray, keep praying, and not lose heart.

  • The fact that we need help praying means we must constantly preach, teach, sing, and speak about the trustworthiness of God.

Seeing the glorious and trustworthy God in the word and trusted in real life encourages us to pray. We must be a people who are focusing on the God revealed through Jesus in the Word.

  • The fact that we need help praying helps us understand the role of celebrating answered prayer.

Hearing your answered prayer encourages me to pray. Hearing my answered prayer encourages you to pray. We must be a people who celebrate what God is doing in and through one another.

  • The fact that we need help praying means we need to be praying together.

When we hear one another begging and pleading with God it encourages us to join with one another in trusting prayer. What I mean is sharing a prayer request is good but sitting with someone as they pour out their heart to God in pleading prayer over that request is quite another thing. To do this you need to come early and stay late so you can pray with others. To do this you need to invite people into your home to pray. It’s going to be awkward asking for help; it always is because we are prideful people. But the truth is we all need help praying and God has given you this church and given you to this church to help people pray.

So, I have declared to you the trustworthiness of God to encourage you to pray. I hope you have been helped and want to pray.

Now, you need the opportunity to pray. Pray where you are, come and knell before God, or go to a quiet place. You may want to ask another person to pray with you. Go and do that. You may be led to go and pray for someone. Go and do that. Trusting God let’s do whatever the Spirit is leading us to do.

[1] http://www.persecutionblog.com/asia-bibi/

Believing Prayer; Luke 11:1-13

You can listen to this sermon here

Have you ever asked for something good and been given junk? Have you ever purchased something which was described as good but in reality it was bad? Maybe you paid someone to do a job, they promised to do a good job, and in the end you were stuck with a terrible job?

There are days coming (if they haven’t already come) when you will be tempted to think God has done a terrible job. You asked God for something good and he gave you junk. You are a good person. You live a good life. You even prayed about it but God didn’t deliver. In fact, you think God has done a terrible job. Now you don’t want to pray. Why pray? God isn’t listening and if he is he can’t be trusted.

When you begin thinking this way where should you turn? Turn to Luke chapter 11 and Jesus’ teaching on prayer. While it is important to know how to pray, it is more important to know the God to whom you pray. Disciples need to know how to pray but most importantly disciples need to know the God to whom they pray.

Read Luke 11:1-13

Notice first with me

  1. Jesus made disciples

The Jesus who commands us to make disciples is the Jesus who made disciples. Jesus is the power and pattern for our lives. So what do we see in this text? Verse 1, “Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’”

  • They saw him praying

Jesus was showing them how a disciple lives by living as a disciple. There is a place for classroom style teaching. Jesus did that too. But before, after, and all around those focused times of teaching Jesus taught by example. What I’m saying is Jesus didn’t take them to a prayer seminar. Jesus prayed and they saw him praying. I wonder what it was like to see Jesus pray. However it looked, the disciples saw him praying and said, “Teach us to do that.”

  • They asked him to teach them to pray

Jesus lived out the command to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16). But notice Jesus wasn’t show-boating. Jesus was doing his thing as the Son of God and others noticed and wanted to do it too.

There is a danger of praying to be seen and be praised by men. Jesus warned against it in Matthew 6. But that doesn’t seem to be our struggle. For many of us the struggle is one of hiding our prayer light under a basket so no one ever sees, no one ever asks, and we never make disciples.

What I’m saying is we need to pray with people. When people ask you to pray for them then do it right then and there. It may be over time someone asks you, “Will you teach me to pray like you?” Living faithfully as a disciple often leads to opportunities to make disciples.

Let’s turn our attention now to the structure of prayer. How should we pray and how should we teach others to pray?

2. The structure of prayer

Notice first off

  • The Lord’s prayer is not a magic incantation

Muslims believe there is power in the simple speaking of scripture. Christians do not. This belief in the speaking of the Koran is what leads Muslims to learn how to pronounce the Arabic words but not necessarily know what the words mean. To the Muslim the meaning doesn’t matter. The words themselves are what matters. This is not the biblical understanding of prayer.

We know prayer is about more than saying the right words because the two accounts of the Lord’s Prayer are so different. Compare Matthew 6:6-14 with Luke 11:2-4. You’ll find some differences. Why? The disciples understood Jesus wasn’t teaching a prayer to be repeated verbatim. Jesus was laying down a structure for prayer.

Here is the basic structure for prayer: Prayer is first about God then prayer is second about you.

  • Prayer is first about God

Luke 11:2, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.” When you are praying start with God. We are asking God to make his name great. Now we aren’t asking for God to make his name great because his name is lame. We are asking God to make his name great because we do not see it as great.

I am an individual who is not sold out on the greatness of God. I am part of a family who treasures so many other things alongside and over God. I am a part of a church made up of sinners who doubt the goodness of God. I live in a community infatuated with shallow things. Father, show us your glory.

Another way of saying start with God is start with worship. Read your bible looking for something praiseworthy about God. Once you find it mull it over. Meditate on this great thing about God. When you see the greatness of God ask for more of it.

Pray, “Your kingdom come.” In this we are praying for Jesus to return but we are also praying for the kingdom to expand and grow until Jesus returns. We’re asking God to rule in our anxious lust filled hearts. We’re asking God to show up and change our families. We’re pleading with God to change our communities. Your kingdom come. Don’t dive off into your needs and wants. Healthy biblical prayer starts with God. Prayer is first about God then

  • Prayer is second about you

The reason prayer is first about God and second about us is because we are tempted to turn God into our errand boy. The prayer list way of praying is dangerous because it can easily make praying about me instead of about God. I don’t exist for God and his purposes, God exists for me and my purposes so let me get to telling him what to do. Starting with worship gets your heart in the right place and often quiets your mind. Then you are ready to ask.

Jesus instructs us to pray for the physical needs of the day. Verse 3, “give us this day our daily bread.” In many cultures this is the exact prayer of God’s people. My family and my church family do not have any food. Crops have been washed away by floods or withered away by drought. There are no opportunities to work. Give us this day our daily bread.

Often in our culture the prayer “give us this day or daily bread” has more to do with doing our jobs well. I believe it was Calvin that said we should be praying for just and fair markets so that good work is answered with a fair wage. Give us this day our daily bread is praying for a job, it is praying for the ability to do the job, and it is praying for customers who will support the work and pay for the groceries.

If you are on social security you realize how praying, “give us this day our daily bread” can easily lead to praying for our government to be wise and faithful in it’s dealings. When I pray “give us this day our daily bread” I’m praying that God will stir your hearts to give generous offerings. We could go on about praying for relational needs and health needs. They would fit in this physical needs category.

Next, Jesus instructs us to pray for the spiritual needs of the day. Verse 4, “forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” God we have doubted your goodness and your ability to provide our daily needs. Please forgive us our sins. Instead of giving others what they need we have wasted time and money on selfishness. Forgive us our sins.

This type of prayer is infused with grace. I am a person who wrongs God and I am a person who is wronged by others. Strengthen me to forgive others and strengthen me to live a faithful life. Church, especially here let me remind you of the need to start with God in prayer. When you start with God’s holiness and graciousness it leads to repentance toward God and graciousness towards others. But if you start with yourself then prayer becomes a gripping session about how hard your life is. Basically prayer becomes your way to telling God he is doing a terrible job. Starting with God’s mercy and kindness leads another direction.

Also, starting with God infuses your prayers with peace. You have these great struggles against sin. You have these great difficulties with your spouse, your children, your coworkers, and others. How are you going to make it? Well, you have already been rehearsing the faithfulness of God and the greatness of God. Celebrating who God is and what God has done is supposed to produce peace.

This is why Paul tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say; Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7).

That is the basic structure of prayer. And notice Jesus doesn’t stop there. He goes on to tell a parable because he understands it is not enough just to tell us to pray. We need to know the God to whom we pray.

3. The God to whom we pray

Look back at verses 5-8

  • God is not a troll

Jesus calls the neighbor “friend” three times in these verses. But notice why the “friend” finally gives over the dough, verse 8, “I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.” The neighbor gives what was asked because the one asking was rude and annoying. Like the unjust Judge of Luke 18 there is no hint of a relationship here. There is no friendship, love, or concern for the other. Like a troll, he simply wants the nuisance to go away. Jesus is making the point that God is not a troll. So what is he then?

  • God is a cheerful giver

He is not a reluctant giver telling us no until we beat him down. God is a cheerful giver. Look with me at verses 9-10.

Ask for three loaves and God will give it. Seek his help and he will give it. Knock on his door at midnight and he’ll open it up and welcome you in. Verse 10 is a wonderful verse encouraging us to pray, “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” God is not a neighbor-troll he is a cheerful giver. Ask Him. Let’s continue with verses 11-13.

  • God is a good gift giver

The basic understanding of these verses is God doesn’t give junk. If earthly dads with all their hang-ups and sin issues are able to give good gifts how much more is your heavenly father able to give good gifts?

Okay now let’s get honest because when we are honest with the text and honest with ourselves we gain the greatest good. There are situations in your life where you think or once thought that God has gypped you. You prayed for something, we’ll call it a fish, but God gave you a serpent. You asked for God’s help and things grew worse! So you tried again. You asked for an egg and this time God gave you a scorpion! What in the world!?!

Remember, Jesus wants you to know how to pray. Start with God in worship and then bring him your requests. When you are out of food, when you have sinned, or when you have been sinned against talk to God about your needs. He’s not a reluctant troll. God is a cheerful good gift giver. So what should we do? We should ask our heavenly good gift Giver, our loving compassionate Father, for the Holy Spirit. Here is why.

4. We need the Holy Spirit

We’re going to do some helpful practical theology here. Sin has effected everything including our desires and our ability to interpret our circumstances. Because of sin we are more likely to doubt the goodness of God than trust that God is good. This means we want the wrong things, we misinterpret our circumstances, and we turn away from God. For these reasons and more Jesus tells us to ask for the Holy Spirit. Here’s why you need to ask for the Spirit

  • Having the Spirit is the mark of a believer (Romans 8:14; Galatians 6:8)

Romans 8:14 states it plainly, “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” True believers are characterized by Spirit led repentance of sin and growth in godliness. By the Spirit Christians put to death the deeds of the flesh. So if the Spirit is not leading you then you are following someone other than God proving you are not a child of God.

Test #1 Does the Spirit lead you to hate your sin and trust Christ for faithful living?

Now this is really scary because it means you submit your past failures and your future plans to God. Remember we’re talking specifically about when you asked God for a fish and he gave you a serpent or when you asked God for an egg and he gave you a scorpion. Should I trust God? Yes, you should ask for the Spirit. Why?

  • We need the assurance of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:15-18)

When God doesn’t give us what we want we are tempted to think God doesn’t love us. Because if God loved me He’d give me what I want. Let’s continue in Romans 8:15, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Since sin has defiled to the core of who you are as a person, when the Spirit leads you to put those sins to death it is going to be very personal and often very painful. You thought God was going to do wonderful things in your life and here he is doing painful things in your life. It’s scary. You want to draw back in fear. You want to turn back. You need the assurance of the Holy Spirit.

In times of struggling prayer we need the Spirit to bear witness to our spirits that we are in fact children of God. We need the Spirit to press us on toward loving trust because we want to draw back in fear. We are tempted to curse God as a tyrant we need the Spirit to assure us that God is good and we are loved.

Test # 2 Does the Spirit bring you comfort when life is hard?

Again, this is why prayer must start with God. We need to be reminded that suffering with God for righteousness and suffering with God because of our sinfulness is part of what it means to be an heir of Christ. To put it another way, you don’t need the Holy Spirit to bear witness to your spirit if God is going to give you everything you ask for. You need the Holy Spirit to bear witness with your spirit because God is not going to give you everything you ask for. Friend, you are going to suffer. Ask for the Holy Spirit.

And there is more. We still need more of the Spirit.

  • We need the prayers of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-28)

Romans 8:26-28 say, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Test # 3 Does the Spirit comfort you when you pray because He’s got this?

When we are stunned by suffering or shocked by unanswered prayers what are we to do? Rest in the presence of God knowing that the Spirit inside of us is praying deeply and powerfully according to the will of God. We can trust and rest in difficulty because the Spirit is at work. This is going to work out for our good because the Spirit is at work in us leading, assuring, and praying. This is going to work out for our good because the Father and the Son and the Spirit are conspiring together for our good.

To summarize

  • We need the wisdom of the Holy Spirit

The wisdom of the Spirit is not the simple theological truth that what my Father gives is good. The wisdom of the Spirit goes deeper leading us to trust that what the Father gives is good. The wisdom of the Spirit goes deeper assuring us that the Father is after our good. The wisdom of the Spirit goes deeper protecting us with his powerful prayers. So when Jesus tells us to ask for the Spirit he is inviting us to ask for the help and correction and assurance we all need.

Test #4 Do you feel your need for the Holy Spirit?

Now you’ve been given some instruction concerning the structure of prayer and the God to whom we pray. There is nothing left to do but to do it. Let’s pray to the Father, through the Son, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

How to Pray

Text: Luke 18:1-14                                                     1/27/2013

Main Point: Prayer is a faith-filled lifeline to God for all of life.

I. Pray trusting God (Luke 18:1-8)

  • Life demands that we keep praying and don’t lose heart

You live in a fallen world that is sharp, cold, and difficult. You are prone to sin and you will make life more difficult than it has to be. Relationships are messy and hard. Jesus commands us to keep praying and don’t lose heart because he knows us and he knows God. He knows our insufficiency and God’s sufficiency. This parable is meant to remind us that continuing in prayer and not giving into discouragement are the two necessary ingredients for life until Christ returns.

Beware of the danger of doing life with only one ingredient. Some will be content to go through the motions of always praying but inwardly they have given up. These people believe that prayer doesn’t do anything but for some strange reason they keep praying. Still others will give up on prayer but they won’t give into discouragement. These people believe things will get better but not according to God’s wisdom so they throw themselves into any and every possible solution; every solution but prayer.

Look again at verse 1, “Jesus told them a parable to the effect that they ought to always pray and not lose heart.” Life demands two ingredients: keep praying and don’t lose heart. Continue in prayer and don’t give into discouragement. Pray without ceasing and trust God without ceasing.

Before we unpack the details of this parable let me give you this big truth concerning prayer

  • Pray believing God will give you what you need

Why does the widow in this parable go to the judge? Because she was convinced the judge could give her what she wanted. Why does every Christian go to God through prayer? Because every Christian believes God will give us what we need.

You will pray to God to the extent that you believe God cares about your needs and is able to meet those needs. If you begin to think God can’t or won’t meet your needs you will stop praying. What I am saying is your prayer life is based on your theology, so one of the best ways to improve your prayer life is to improve your theology. The more biblical you are in your understanding of God the more encouragement you will have to go to him and not give up.

We’ll get back to this point as the parable comes to an end so let’s begin working through the details of the widow, the judge, and God.

  • The Widow

Look at verse 3, “there was a widow.” In the first century widows were the classic example of the powerless. She had no merit whatsoever before this judge. The widow had no rights, no ace in the hole, no angle, no power, and no leverage. Verse 3 goes on to tell us that she kept coming to the judge saying, “Give me justice against by adversary.”

She doesn’t ask, she says. She doesn’t plead, she demands. Now, she has an adversary, an accuser. The Spirit through the Apostle Peter warns us to be on our guard because our adversary Satan prowls around looking for ways to destroy us (1 Pt 5:8). See could not come to terms with her adversary. Apparently her adversary was seeking to destroy her. So, she demanded justice. She demanded protection from her opponent.

Here is the picture: the weak and powerless is being oppressed. Her only recourse is the judge.  

  • The Judge

Jesus emphasizes the character of the judge; this point is important. In verse 2 Jesus tells us what type of man the judge is, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.” This judge did what was right in his own eyes. He did not care about God’s standards and he paid no attention to the needs of the people under his jurisdiction. Without fear of God and without concern for others this man was a law unto himself. There is absolutely no reason why this widow should expect to receive justice from this man. He has no category of justice. This judge is utterly lawless and selfish. He cannot be trusted.

As we should expect the widow is ignored but keeps coming and keeps demanding justice. She keeps being refused. Over and over she goes and makes her case and the uncaring judge refuses to aid this woman in need. But then something happens. Look with me at verse 4, “For a while he refused, but afterwards he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’”

The judge is a law unto himself who cares only for himself so when the widow began to plague him she struck a nerve. The unrighteous judge caved in to the powerless victim. He finally gave her justice but not because it was the right thing to do or because he cared for the widow. The judge gave her justice because she was wearing him out and he wanted to get her off his case.

Jesus gave us this parable so that we would compare this unrighteous judge to the Righteous Judge and be encouraged to continue to pray. In verse 6 Jesus said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says.” Think about what Jesus has just told you and apply it to God and prayer.

  • God and prayer

Here is the basic question concerning God and prayer, verse 7, “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night.” The unrighteous judge did what was right surely God will do what is right. Here prayer is being grounded in the character of God. Can I trust him to right wrongs?[1] Jesus answers with a resounding “YES!” Verse 8, “I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.” Vengeance belongs to God. You can trust him to avenge all evil. He will give justice to his elect.

Elect literally means called out and it’s often translated as chosen. This word “elect” brings the unrighteous judge and the avenging God into stark comparison. The unrighteous judge cares nothing for the widow while God has personally called out and redeemed his elect. The unrighteous judge has nothing invested in the widow while the Father has the life of his Son and the presence of his Spirit invested in the elect.

God’s concern for his elect makes me think of ‎Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” The Father has given you his Son. Rest assured he will give you justice. Don’t give up. Keep praying. Don’t let discouragement and difficulty crush your prayers. Justice may be a long time coming.

I’ve skipped over a phrase in verse 7 until now. The ESV, NASB, and NIV translate the phrase “Will he delay long over them?” Do you see that phrase in verse 7? The best translation is actually with the KJV and NKJV. It is translated “Though he bear long with them.” Literally the phrase reads like this, “And he is long-suffering or patient over them.”

Here’s what this phrase means: God is going to act. Vengeance will be handed out. Justice will be done speedily but maybe not as you and I count speedily. Unrighteous judges will continue to hold court and uphold wickedness. Family members will steal and go unpunished. Abusers will go free and wrongs will remain painfully wrong. Until Jesus returns we live in a fallen world where fallen men and women do sinful things making our lives harder while their lives seemingly improve.

But God is patient over his elect. God is long-suffering over his elect. Just because God hasn’t answered your prayer the way you desire in the time you would like doesn’t mean he won’t answer. It doesn’t mean he isn’t listening. Jesus wants to ground our prayers in the character of God and the surety of Jesus’ return. Jesus is coming back. Jesus the Judge will purge every court and right every wrong.

But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? Will you be found in the faith when Christ returns? Will you be found praying at his return?

I will admit these have been difficult days. From cancer suddenly spreading to disease not responding to treatment to relationships falling apart there is much to tempt me to ask, “God, where are you? Aren’t you just? Do the right thing for your own. I’m praying and asking and knocking and seeking but you aren’t opening.”

It is precisely in these moments that we must preach the truth to ourselves. We must quiet our restless spirits before the Lord. Remind yourself that God is not unrighteous but he is just. Remind yourself that he is patient over you and though you aren’t getting what you want it doesn’t mean God doesn’t hear or doesn’t care. God is sovereign, ruling over every detail, and orchestrating things unseen. We must cling to the character of God. He will do what is right. We must not lose hope. Our righteous King is coming and though it is not made right today it will be made right then.

Stand firm Christian. Life is difficult and demands two things: keep praying and don’t lose heart. You belong to God. He hears. He will do what is just. Pray trusting in God.

II. Pray hating yourself (Luke 18:9-14)

These two parables, the parable of the persistent widow and the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector belong together. They belong together because it is very easy for each of us to begin thinking our idea of justice is God’s idea of justice. My wish is God’s command so God has to avenge me this way. We need both parables because we are prone to think that God owes us because of all that we have done for him.

Here is the big truth from this parable. We must

  • Pray in complete humility

Like the widow you have no merit with which you can persuade God. Like the tax collector you have great sin that would keep God from hearing even your most righteous prayers. You and I stand before God empty handed owing a debt we cannot pay. From our side there is absolutely no reason God should listen to us or give us justice. In fact, if God gave you justice he would condemn you quickly to hell. Pray in complete humility.

  • This parable is for the uppity self-righteous

This parable is for me and it is probably for you. Look with me at verse 9: “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.” This parable is not for tax collectors but for Pharisees. This parable is for people who serve when no one else will.

This is for people who look down their noses and treat others as if they are nothing. I’m a good husband; she’s a bad wife. I’m a good wife; he’s a bad husband. I’m the only sibling willing to care for our aging parents. I’m the good one in this relationship; he/she is the bad one.

This parable is for all of us who are tempted to comfort ourselves with our own religious accomplishments compared to the apparent failures of others. Let me ask you a simple question, Why should God listen to your prayers? In the honestly of your own conscience answer the question. Why do you believe God should answer your prayers?

Do you think God should listen to you because you’re a good person; I mean at least you’re not as bad as some. Maybe you’ve suffered a lot so God should listen to you. Maybe you’re a princess and Daddy should do what you say. Or maybe you’ve sacrificed a lot and served a lot so God should listen. After all these years doesn’t God owe you for all your hard work?

Look at verse 10, “Two men went up to the temple to pray.” Devoting yourself to prayer is a good thing. Making time to pray and seeking out a place that will help you pray are both good things. The problem is not prayer or the place. The problem is in the person.

  • The Pharisee

Verse 11 tells us that the Pharisee was standing. His actions were quite formal, respectable, and refined. Standing was the normal posture of prayer (Mt 6:5; Mk 11:25). If you’ll notice in verse 13 the tax collector is also standing as he prays. The posture is not the problem. The person is the problem. Let’s begin working in verse 11 and the Pharisee’s problem will become clear.

The best translation of verse 11 is not that the Pharisee was standing by himself but that he was praying to himself. His communication was not communication with God but only an inner dialogue with himself. This man thought he was praying and he looked like he was praying and he used the right words as if he was praying but he was not praying. I want to challenge you today with the biblical truth that you can say all the right words and think you are praying very well but in fact not be praying at all.

The Pharisee’s problem was pride. Look at verse 11, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” Notice how much of himself is in his prayer and how little of God is in his prayer. He thanks God that he’s not like all those messed up, sinful, wretched people. Then he proceeds to celebrate himself in God’s presence. This is the epitome of pride. When a 20 pound catfish can celebrate the greatness of his pride in the presence of a 150 ton blue whale then there is a deep problem. This Pharisee is the catfish celebrating his greatness in the presence of the infinitely awesome God.

The Pharisee was spiritually blind. He had no sins to confess and no spiritual wants to be supplied.[2] He was financially stable, respectable, and religious headed for hell but convinced he was going to heaven. Let’s compare him with the tax collector.

  • The Tax Collector

Unlike the Pharisee who trusted in himself the tax collector despised himself. Look at verse 13, “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner.’”

He knew himself to be unworthy of God’s presence or to be a part of God’s people. He felt the weight of his sin as it separated him from God and from others. He could not bear to look  up toward the God he had sinned against. He had nothing to celebrate. He beat his chest angry at himself. His prayer was a simple, true, heart-felt confession, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner.” Unlike the Pharisee, this man, who our culture would want to medicate for his unhealthy depression, truly prayed.

He understood that he had not just done bad things. It was not that he had sins; he understood that he was a sinner. The original has the article so it’s right to translate his prayer, “God be merciful to me, the sinner.” This is like the Apostle Paul calling himself the chief of sinners or the foremost of sinners (1 Tim 1:15). Compare me to anyone and I will prove myself the worst. Here is the heart of true humility, being crushed under the weight of my real sin against a real God that leaves me thoroughly unworthy of God’s care.

Knowing his sin, the tax collector prayed to God and pleaded for mercy. But why in the world would a sinful man pray to a holy God? He prayed because the true God is the God who forgives sinners. The word mercy carries the idea of making propitiation. The tax collector longed for God to cover over his sins. He longed for forgiveness. He longed for atonement. He wanted to be declared not guilty of that which he was guilty of doing. He wanted justification.

Notice that the tax collector doesn’t want justice. If the tax collector received justice he would bust hell wide open. The tax collector longed for the burden of his sin to be lifted off of his crushed and defiled soul.

Look at the gospel in verse 14, “I tell you, this man (the tax collector not the Pharisee) went down to his house justified.” The tax collector found forgiveness and purity and a fresh start.

Here is the point, verse 15, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Let’s talk about

  • You and prayer

If the parable of the persistent widow addresses the question “Do you pray,” then this parable addresses the question “How are you when you pray?”.

Do you go to God rehearsing all the good things you have done or do you go to God hating all the sin you have committed? Do you go to God expecting him to rule in your favor or do you go to God knowing that he should never rule in your favor?

Let’s be clear, there is no hint of pride in the persistent widow. She doesn’t go to the judge expecting to get her way because of what she has done or who she is. She goes to the judge because she knows he’s the only one who can give her what she needs. Desperation and a clear understanding of the judge’s power keep her praying. Humble desperation and a clear understanding of God’s power should keep you praying. You are his chosen child. He will vindicate you. Keep praying don’t lose heart.

A deep honest evaluation of your sinfulness should also keep you praying. Only God can forgive and he stands ready to forgive because Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Christ has suffered for you. Christ has paid your debt. Don’t run from God in shame run to God with your shame. If you repent of your sins he is faithful and just to forgive you your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Christian after all this talk about prayer it is time to pray. We all have something to pray about. Maybe there is sin you need to confess. Maybe you need to confess the sin of unbelief because you’ve stopped praying and started doubting God’s character. Maybe you need to throw yourself on the mercy of God knowing that he must act. You need his justice. You are powerless, alone, and without merit. You need divine action. You are desperate for the God who loves you to act for you.

After I pray we will sing our final hymn. When we do I want you to know you are free to do whatever the Spirit leads you to do. Pray where you are, pray with your spouse, or come down here where there is more room. Get on your knees. Beat your chest. Stand far off. Plead and with faith be persistent.

Cast all your cares on God knowing that he cares for you.


[1] Hebrews 10:30 “For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”

[2] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Lk 18:11–12). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

To the Cross: Jesus Prays for Himself; John 17:1-5

Text: John 17:1-5                                                                   5/8/2011

Thesis: Jesus’ work of redemption brings glory to God and life to his elect.

I. The Son prays in dependence upon the Father (v1)

  1. Jesus knows that the Father must work

We are being told that the Son is going to glorify the Father it because the Father glorifies the Son. The perfect Son of God takes no credit for what he accomplishes.  All that the Son does and is is a product of all that the Father does and is. The Son exists in complete dependence upon the Father.

Jesus has already confessed in John 5:19, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but only what he sees the Father doing.” Then in 5:30 Jesus says, “I can do nothing on my own.” In 8:28 Jesus said, “I do nothing on my own authority.” In 14:10 he said, “the Father who dwells in me does his works.”

As Jesus approaches the cross he lifts up his eyes to the Father knowing that he is completely dependent upon the Father. This is a prayer of dependence. “Father in order for me to glorify You, You must glorify me.”

So what specifically is Jesus praying for? What is he depending on the Father for?

He knows that “the hour has come”. This is the hour of crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. It is the hour in which Jesus’ redeeming work will be completed. It is the hour through which Jesus will conquer sin and the grave.  It is the hour when Jesus will drink the cup of God’s wrath for you and for me. It is time for Jesus to fulfill his mission as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Jesus is glorious and has done many glorious things. But all of his glorious attributes and glorious deeds fade into the background when compared to the work he accomplished on the cross. Through the atoning cross and the victorious resurrection Jesus Christ is glorified. He is exalted as the only One capable of removing all the sin and shame that separates us from God. The splendor of Jesus is displayed in his work of coming for his enemies, dying in the place of his enemies, and securing an eternal redemption for his enemies. No one is like our God. No one loves like him. No one redeems like him.  Through the cross the Son of God is glorified. We see him for all that he truly is when we see his bloody cross and empty tomb.

“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.” Jesus’ desire is to bring glory to the Father by completing the Father’s mission. Jesus’ desire is not to be glorified on this earth for his own benefit.  No, he has glory waiting for him in heaven that far outstrips any benefit he could receive on this earth.  Jesus’ desire is to see the Father glorified. And how is the Father glorified?

The Father is glorified when we cherish Him as the reason for everything that Jesus accomplished.  Who sent the Son to be your salvation? The Father send the Son (John 3:16). Who planned Jesus’ glorious redemption for you? (Acts 2:23)

The Father is glorified when we clearly see him as the gracious planner and provider of every aspect of our lives. Who chose you in Christ before the foundation of the world? (Eph 1:4). Who drew you to Christ? (John 6:44). Who caused you to be born again? (1 Peter 1:3) Who began the good work of salvation in us? (Philippians 1:6). Whose secure hand keeps us into all eternity? (John 10:29). Who wrote your name in the book of life before the foundation of the world? (Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:2; 20:15).

Your salvation through the glorious work of Jesus Christ was the Father’s plan. Praise the God who overcame every obstacle so that you could be restored to him.  The hour has come for the Son to be glorified and when the Son is glorified the Father who planned it and secured it and empowered it all will be glorified.

Before we go on we need to pause and ask a simple question: How does your prayer life compare to Jesus’?

Do you give yourself to prayer because you know apart from God you can do nothing good? You can accomplish nothing as an individual, as an employee, as a spouse, as a child, as a neighbor, as church member, or as a friend apart from the power of Christ. Do you live in dependence upon the omnipotent God of the universe? Jesus shows us that is the way to pray.

Jesus prayed in dependence upon the Father and

II. The Son prays according to the purposes of the Father (vs 2-4)

  1. The Son glorifies the Father because he has been given authority over all flesh

Jesus is praying in dependence upon the coming work of the Father (glorify the Son) and Jesus is praying according to the decree of the Father (you have given the Son authority). This authority or power over all flesh is best described by John 5:22, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.” Then 5:26-27, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.”

Revelation 19:11 says that Jesus “judges and makes war in righteousness. Verse 15 tells us that “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron.”

The Father has given to the Son all authority over every person. This authority entails two main actions: authority to judge and authority to give eternal life.

First, since Jesus has all authority over all flesh he will be the one who judges each person’s life either pronouncing a welcome into heaven or an expulsion into hell (Mt 25). This is one of the reasons Jesus is able to thoroughly and clearly glorify the Father. It is unheard of that the One with authority over all flesh to judge all flesh would take the punishment for all flesh.  Jesus rightly and authoritatively judges and Jesus as our substitute takes our punishment. By the Father’s plan and power this is done. So, first, Jesus’ authority over all flesh gives him the right to judge. And second, since Jesus has all authority over all flesh he gives life to whom he wills.

Let’s read all of verse 2 again, “since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.”

  1. The Son glorifies the Father by giving life to a particular people

Notice what this verse says: Jesus has been given authority over all flesh but only gives eternal life to all whom the Father has given him. Why not just say that Jesus has authority over all flesh and Jesus gives eternal life to all flesh? We don’t say that because Jesus doesn’t do that. Jesus doesn’t give eternal life to all flesh. Verse two says he gives eternal life to all whom the Father has given him. So, who is it that has been given by the Father to the Son?

Look down at verses six and nine for some help. Verse six: “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.” Verse 9: “I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” So the Father does not give the world to Jesus and Jesus does not give the world eternal life. The Father gives a particular people to the Son and Jesus gives those people eternal life.

We saw this in John 6:37 when Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”

We saw this again in John 10:28-29 when Jesus said, “I give them (his sheep) eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch the out of the Father’s hand.”

So the Father gives the Son a particular people and the Son gives eternal life to those particular people. Those people will never perish, they will never be cast out, and no one will snatch them out of the Father’s hand? Why?

Because it was decided that Jesus would have authority over all flesh. And it was decided that this authoritative Jesus would give eternal life to those given to him by the Father. Praise God that salvation is secure not because of us the receivers but because of God the giver. Elsewhere in Scripture this group is called the “chosen” (Eph 1:4; Col 3:12; 1 Thess 1:4; 1 Pt 2:9), or “the elect” (Mt 24:31; Lk 18:7; Ro 8:33; 9:11; Titus 1:1).

Now we must be mindful that we are looking at the human race from God’s perspective. He sees a group of people throughout the ages that he calls the elect, the chosen, or those given to the Son. We don’t have that perspective. From our perspective we can only see those who have heard the Gospel, repented of their sins, placed their faith in Jesus Christ, and been born again. All those who repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus Christ do so because they have been given to the Son and the Son gives them life. And what is this life?

  1. Eternal life is knowing the Father and the Son

Look at John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Most of the time when we think of eternal life we think of unending life or life that goes on forever and forever. And that’s true. But it’s only part of the truth. What is the purpose of having life that goes on forever? It’s not so you can do everything you always wanted to do; you’ll run out of wants before you run out of eternal life. Eternal life is not a forever Dairy Queen where you can drink coffee and swap stories throughout forever; you’ll run out of stories. Eternal life is knowing the infinite God. Eternal life is much more than life that never ends. Life in hell never ends but its never called eternal life.

This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

There is only one true God. He exists in three persons Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And there has never been a human that walked this earth that did more than scratch the surface of what it means to know God. The infinite God cannot be fully known by a finite mind. Eternal life is getting to know the infinitely amazing God; enjoying all the depths, riches, wisdom, and knowledge of God (Rom 11:33). Like Adam in the Garden, we’ll walk with God and He will teach us. Like Moses on the mountain, we’ll see God and be forever changed. Like Peter, James, and John we’ll see the full glory of Jesus Christ. And for all of eternity we will go deeper and be further satisfied.

God is a subject that we will never complete but never get tired of studying. God is like a mountain we love to climb but we’ll never reach the peak. Knowing God is like the best dream from which we will never awaken. For all of eternity Father, Son, and Spirit will be gloriously satisfying.

How do we get him? Where does this begin? God sent his only begotten Son so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Jesus gives us now and secures for us always a growing relationship with the infinitely wonderful God. Jesus knows that’s what he must do and so he prays accordingly.

  1. In verse 4 Jesus prays with such faith that he can view the future as if it is the past

He prays, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”

When you’re God and you know God you get to pray this way. The mission is accomplished. Atonement has been made. Victory is won. Eternal life has been given. I glorified you on earth.

Praise God that there has never been a doubt about Jesus’ ability to save your soul from sin and death. The odds that Jesus would fail were infinity to one. When the Father sends the Son it is as good as done. Jesus accomplished the work. He glorified the Father by giving eternal life to his own.

After praying according to God’s purposes

III. The Son prays for his return to glory (v5)

  1. The Son wants to get back to the way things were

Some Sunday nights ago we talked for a while about the Self-Sufficient Trinity and how we can add nothing to the glory or happiness of God. Let me try to come at that idea again from John 17:5.

As Jesus faces the cross by which he will redeem a people from all tribes, and peoples, and languages (Rev 7:9) he doesn’t want to go forward he wants to go backward. Jesus doesn’t pray that God would speed the day when he will enjoy the worship of the great multitude of the redeemed in Revelation 7. Jesus doesn’t pray for time to move forward so he can enjoy the worship of thousands and thousands of angels as they say, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev 5:12). Jesus prays, look at John 17:5, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” No amount of faithful angels or redeemed saints can improve on what has always been.

In the presence of the Father the Son possessed a glory that cannot be improved upon. Jesus wants a return to the glory that he rightly deserves as God. He prays for a return to the glory he possessed with the Father before there were any people or planets or songs or solar systems. For us, in the presence of God is the fullness of joy (Ps 16:11). But for Jesus, in the presence of God is the fullness of glory. Your salvation and my salvation do not serve to increase the amount of glory possessed by God. Your salvation and my salvation serve to spread the knowledge of the glory possessed by God. This is why Jesus doesn’t pray forward to the day of great worship by the redeemed. Jesus prays backwards to the day when nothing but God existed and Jesus possessed a glory that could not be improved. Jesus prayed for his return to glory.

Up to this point I’ve done a little application. Let me try to bring these truths home and we’ll be done. Jesus prayed in dependence upon the Father. Jesus prayed according to the purposes of the Father. And Jesus prayed for his return to glory.

IV. You and I pray for God to be glorified by the giving of eternal life according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  1. Pray in dependence upon the Father

Pray to the Father knowing that if He doesn’t exalt the Son through what you are doing then what you are doing will count for nothing. Husbands, what does your wife need? She needs to see Christ exalted in your life and plans and dreams and deeds and words. Dads, what do your kids need? They need to see Christ exalted in you as you love their mom and go to work and pay the bills and play games with them. Students what do your friends need? They need to see a clear and glorious picture of the Jesus who gives eternal life.

Pray for the glory of God to be displayed in ways totally disproportionate to who you are.

  1. Pray according to the purposes of the Father

According to God’s purposes revealed in Matthew 24:14, pray for God to use you to proclaim the gospel to the nations. According to God’s purposes revealed in Ephesians 5 pray that you will be a faithful husband or wife. According to God’s purposes revealed in 1 Corinthians 7 pray you will be a faithful single adult. According to Ephesians 6 pray you will be a faithful son or daughter. God has revealed what he wants for you. Are you praying according to his purposes?

Pray for Us; Hebrews 13:18-19

Text: Hebrews 13:18-19                                                 5/18/08 p.m.

Thesis: Pray brings unity and progress to a church

 

Intro: If we could do a quick sound-bite recap of the sermons from this letter to the Hebrews it would be obvious that there have been many hard things said.

The author even calls the letter “a word of exhortation” in chapter 13 verse 22.

Their tradition was drawing them away from Christ and they had to be told their tradition was wrong.

They thought they were mature men and women but in all honesty they were still elementary children in their thinking.

They had won a hard fought battle of faith and were tempted to coast. They had to be told to get ready because God would bring even greater difficulty.

They had to be told to obey and submit to their leaders with a good attitude.

You’re wrong, you’re a bunch of babies, you’re growing lazy, you need to do what you are told, and you need to be happy about it.

But this pastor is not being mean or tyrannical in his writing. Out of a love for Christ and a correct understanding of Christ’s great work of atonement love pours from his pen.

This pastor says what needs to be said because he knows Christ and wants the church to know Christ as well.

Love always leads us to say and do hard things. That means love always leads us to the need for prayer.

It is no surprise that as we come to the close of this Spirit-inspired letter we see a genuine plea for prayer.

This pastor calls on the church he loves to pray for him.

 

Read Hebrews 13:18-19

 

I) Prayer is necessary

a)      When you attempt hard things you will feel your need for prayer

i)        He says to them, “All of you keep praying for us.”

ii)      He’s not asking the prayer warriors to keep an annual prayer vigil. Because he knows his great need he is demanding that the young and the old continue in prayer for their church leaders.

iii)    He wants to be restored to them. There is separation that breaks the heart of this pastor. He can’t stand to just write them a letter.

iv)    The desire is to be with them. Pen and paper though beneficial fall short of the encouragement and potential of being together face-to-face on a regular basis.

v)      He wants to personally show them the splendor of Christ that far surpasses the beauty of the Old Covenant.

vi)    He wants to work with them side by side so that they will grow strong in the faith.

vii)  He wants to be the type of man who cares for their souls and engenders their willingness to follow him.

viii)            “Pray for us” is not a phrase this pastor feels he has to say in order to keep up the appearance of godliness.

ix)    “Pray for us” is the command of a pastor who knows God’s call on his life is far greater than his own personal abilities. He needs the spiritual assistance of those he loves and longs to lead to Christ.

x)      He also knows that he must be a pastor striving to be the man he is calling them to be.

b)      Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience

i)        This call to prayer is not the last ditch effort of a man who has failed in character and conduct so now he’s going to try the prayer thing.

ii)      This pastor according to Hebrews 10:22 has had his heart sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and his body washed with pure water.

iii)    According to Hebrews 9:14 the powerful blood of Jesus Christ has purified his conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

iv)    He is convinced that because of the atoning work of Jesus Christ his conscience is good.

v)      He has said hard things but for all the right reasons.

vi)    What was done needed to be done. What was said needed to be said.

vii)  Through Christ this pastor has been faithful so he calls on the church not to pray for his restoration because of some sin but to pray because he has been faithful.

c)      His desire was to act honorably in all things

i)        This is helpful for us as we continue to grow up in Jesus Christ. A clear conscience is not based on the fact that a person agrees to some facts about Jesus Christ.

ii)      A clear conscience is based on the work of Christ that leads a person to obey Christ.

Titus 2:14 says Jesus Christ, “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

iii)    When we understand the amazing work of Jesus Christ for us it makes us pure and it empowers us for ministry.

iv)    Right faith in Christ doesn’t just lead to wanting to go to church. Right faith in Christ leads to a desire to live honorably in all things.

v)      Following Christ will cause you to do things that some people do not like and say things some people do not want to hear.

vi)    What we must do is call on people to pray for us, be sure that we are acting on faith in Christ, and strive to live in a manner pleasing to God in every aspect of our lives.

vii)  This pastor could call on his church to pray because his conscience was clear and his live was characterized by a desire for holiness.

viii)            What is encouraging for us is that this man of enduring godliness still needed help.

II) We help each other through prayer

Read verse 19

a)      When we grasp the power of prayer it will drive us to pray more and ask for more prayer.

i)        The person who has tasted the power of God is a person who joyfully asks for prayer.

ii)      It’s not a statement of weakness to ask for prayer it is a statement of faith. I know God is able to help so I need you all to pray for God’s help.

iii)    Do you see the urgency in the voice of this pastor?  More exceedingly I encourage this.

iv)    I beseech you to pray. I urge you to pray. I particularly urge you to pray.

v)      These are not the words of a washed up rock bottom has been.  These are the words of a powerful man of God who knows where his power comes from.

vi)    A prayer request is never a sign of weakness. A prayer request is a sign of faith.

vii)  Here’s the specific request

b)      Pray earnestly for my restoration

i)        We are not given the specifics of what he needed to be restored from.  Obviously his readers would have known.

ii)      It is possible that he could be imprisoned but that does not seem to be the best fit for the content of the letter.

iii)    Timothy has probably been in prison and the wording is different concerning Timothy’s situation and this pastor’s situation.

iv)    It seems better to understand that because of the persecution in this Christian community their pastor is not able to immediately return to them.

v)      Prisoners during these times were allowed access to the outside world in a way foreign to our prison system today.

vi)    If their pastor was down town in the city jail they could see him and he could see them.

vii)  But in verse 23 he talks also of his desire to see them when he joins up with Timothy.

viii)            So, he’s probably in a foreign country driven and kept there by the level of persecution in this community.

ix)    Though he is separated from them and kept out by hostile forces this pastor trusts God.

x)      He’s like Mordecai talking with Esther

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

xi)    This pastor is sure of God’s work of restoration but he also is sure of the fact that God has placed these people in this situation to do something about it.

xii)  Like Esther going before King Ahasuerus the congregation is to go before the King of the Universe and ask for the quick restoration of their pastor to them.

xiii)            And God will answer their prayer. God will do his great work. God will fulfill his perfect will.

xiv)            This man of God will be restored to the church of God because the people of God prayed.

xv)  I pray and I call on you to pray not simply because God tells us to pray. I pray and urge you to pray because the prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective.

xvi)            Prayers coming from a clear conscience and an honorable life accomplish God’s work.

III) Conclusion

a)      Turn in your bibles to Hebrews chapter 4 verse 14

i)        Read verses 14-16

ii)      If you are a Christian you are in need.  If you are a Christian in need the sovereign God of the universe is inviting you right now to draw near to Him through faith in Christ.

iii)    God is inviting you right now to trust in Jesus who knows what it’s like to be tempted like you are.

iv)    This Jesus who knows your temptation and has beaten your temptation will shower on you the mercy and grace you need to feel your conscience cleaned.

v)      This Jesus will give you the grace and mercy you need to live an honorable life in every area of that life.

vi)    There is no reason not to pray and there is every encouragement to pray.

vii)  We are not going to sing. We are going to pray. Confess your sins. Praise God. Ask God to meet your needs. Plead with God that he would bring unity to this church and use you to do it.

viii)            As your pastor I urge you to earnestly pray for me. Pray I will live strong in the Lord with a clear conscience. Pray that because of Christ I will act honorably in all things.

ix)    As God’s beloved children let’s pray to our gracious father through faith in Christ Jesus.

Pursue Thankfulness; 1 Timothy 4:1-5

Text: 1st Timothy 4:1-5                                                     2/27/08 PM

Thesis: Christianity is not about rules but right belief and all encompassing thankfulness.

 

Intro: Donald Guthrie said, “Those who cannot thank God have no real knowledge of Him” (TNTC, 104).

Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes the argument that we Christians have lost our impact on our communities because we are as hopeless, lifeless, and depressed as the rest of the world.

People don’t want to become Christians because we live as bummed out as they do except we don’t get drunk and sleep around which is really the world’s only sources of fun.

Now I am not arguing that we indulge in those things in order to reach the world. What I am arguing for is living Christianity.

I long for you to be known as the most joy-filled and gracious person in your neighborhood.

Pay attention here because I’m not telling you that if you want to be a Christian or a member of Mambrino Baptist Church you have to smile more than everyone else at your job or on your block.

For me to demand that you put on a smile would be as ridiculous as these teachers in Ephesus demanding that those church members not get married and not eat meat; surface stuff.

If we don’t change the heart, and by heart I mean right belief and encompassing thankfulness, we’re only putting shackles on the dog.

If you put a rabid dog in a cage you can keep him from hurting other people but he’s still a rabid dog.

Rabid dogs don’t need cages they need a fundamental change in who they are and what they are about.

All of us apart from Christ are dead in our trespasses and sins.

Dead people don’t need more rules they need to be given new life.

And this new life is a new life of right belief and all encompassing thankfulness

Read 1st Timothy 4:1-5

I) Now it is sad but true that there are people even in the church who will try to steal your joy and freedom in Christ

a)      The Holy Spirit has made this clear

i)        The Holy Spirit does not stutter when it comes to people coming in and messing up the church.

ii)      Now the Holy Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith.

iii)    It should break our hearts and cause us to plead with God for grace and with man for repentance when people leave the faith, but it should not surprise us.

iv)    In Acts 20:29 we learn that the Apostle Paul gathered the elders of this Ephesian church and warned them that after his “departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

v)      In Acts 20 Paul warned them about what would happen. In 1st Timothy 4 we learn that what He had warned them about was in fact happening.

vi)    Jesus warned in Matthew 13 that the kingdom of Heaven is like a field where a man plants only good seed but one night his enemy comes and plants weeds among the good soil and they grow up together.

vii)  The Holy Spirit has made it clear that we must be on our guard against false teachers and destructive teaching because

b)      Some will leave the faith and try to take you with them

i)        These “later times” are not over. We are still living in these “later times”. The church is still in danger.

ii)      The lambs of Christ as still in danger of the wolves. Weeds are still being sown next to the good seed.

iii)    The grace of God is displayed in the fact that God the Father through the Spirit has told us how people make shipwreck of the faith.

iv)    Let’s be clear: leaving the faith means if they die in that state that die and go to hell.

v)      But somebody filling the pew week in and week out doesn’t just wake up and go from happy clappy the night before to Jesus stinks in the morning.

vi)    The frightening thing is in 1st Timothy 4 we’re not talking about people who have left the church.

vii)  We’re talking about people who can still be in the church physically but have left the faith spiritually.

viii)            Here’s one of the steps these people take when leaving the faith: they devote themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.

ix)    The poison that ruins the apple is Satan’s deceptive teaching. When we start talking about Satan most people are worried about demon possession.

x)      The demonic is real; I believe that. But our weakness as American Christians is we are more concerned with being possessed by a demon than we are concerned about being taught demon principles.

xi)    The danger is not that you going to be possessed by a demon. The danger is that you will listen to and believe the false wisdom of the demonic.

xii)  What happens is Satan finds a person whose conscience is seared.  Remember, what’s the aim of Timothy’s charge? What are we working for as a church?

xiii)            The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith; 1 Tim 1:5.

xiv)            When certain people leave these things behind they wander into vain useless unprofitable discussions.

xv)  Remember, the conscience is our moral center that when made new by the Spirit and guided by Scripture leads us to what is right and away from what is wrong.

xvi)            Well there are people out there whose consciences don’t work. Since they aren’t captive to Christ they’re captive to Satan.

xvii)          Because they aren’t real concerned about what’s right and what is wrong they don’t have any problem being hypocritical lairs.

xviii)        A hypocrite is someone who sees his sin, his lack of joy in Christ, and his struggle against sin and lives like there is no sin, there is complete joy in Christ, and there is no struggle at all.

xix)            That’s what was happening in Ephesus.

xx)  A hypocrite is not someone who sees his sin and is frustrated by his lack of repentance or his struggle against sin.

xxi)            A Christian is someone who is honest about their sins, struggles, and lack of affection for Christ.

xxii)          A hypocrite is the type of person that Satan uses. There’s no need to possess him; Satan already has him because this hypocrite has bought Satan’s way of doing things.

xxiii)        So like a demon, this hypocrite begins to deceive and win his way into the minds and hearts of others.

xxiv)        He does not teach the gospel. He does not hold forth the truth of Christ’s incarnation, atoning death, victorious resurrection, and glorious ascension.

xxv)          The teachings of demons are characterized by a refusal to talk about sin, hell, and repentance.

xxvi)        Teach anything you want as long as it has nothing to do with true religion.

xxvii)      In fact, if you can make up a list of good things and a list of bad things and make people follow that list and think that they are okay with God that’s even better.

c)      Demonic teaching always has a positive spin

i)        If satanic teaching was all stringing up cats and drinking the blood of goats very few would buy it.

ii)      But since it’s deceitful, meaning it looks good, tons of people are buying it.

iii)    This teaching takes different forms throughout the ages but in Ephesus it took the form of this:

iv)    If you want to be spiritual just like Jesus then you can’t get married and you can’t eat meat.

v)      In 2nd Timothy 2:18 we learn that there were teachers in Ephesus saying that the resurrection had already occurred.

vi)    And remember what Jesus said about marriage after the resurrection?

vii)  Jesus said, Matthew 22:30, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” So they thought, don’t get married.

viii)            Some people have argued that it wasn’t until after the fall of Adam and Eve into sin that people ate meat.

ix)    So, if we’re headed back to Garden of Eden perfection then we shouldn’t be eating meat.

x)      Boy am I glad they got this stuff wrong. If that’s the poison here’s the antidote.

II) It is joyful and true that God is the good Creator of all things

a)      Christians won’t be tricked by people who create rules because Christians believe and know the truth

i)        Look at verse 3 again. We’re talking about people, “who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”

ii)      The resurrection hasn’t occurred. How do we know? Jesus hasn’t come back.

iii)    1 Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

iv)    Unless by some weird turn of events I missed that day in High School, College, and Seminary when this day was discussed under the heading of world history I don’t think it’s happened yet.

v)      Christians believe the gospel and that means we believe in the bodily return of Jesus Christ when he will take full and personal rule of his kingdom.

vi)    Guys, you’ve got to know the truth. You’ve got to love the truth or you are an easy target for deceit.

vii)  The end of verse 3 and on into verses 4 & 5 deal almost exclusively with the subject of food.

b)      For everything created by God is good

i)        Where is the Apostle Paul getting this stuff from? He’s getting it from the Bible. That’s crazy.

ii)      Genesis 1:31, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”

iii)    Genesis 9:1, God tells Noah, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.”

iv)    Mark 7:19 tells us that Jesus declared all foods clean.

v)      In Peter’s vision on the roof top God tells him, “What God has made clean, do not call common” (Acts 10.15).

vi)    God doesn’t make junk. What God creates is clean and He has declared it to be so.

vii)  Now here is the deal

c)      Nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving

i)        Does this mean that if we’re thankful for it we can do whatever we want and take into our bodies whatever we want?

ii)      That is ridiculous to believe. Just because a cannibal is thankful it doesn’t make it right for him to eat you.

iii)    Let me put this in the context of Romans 14:23 another chapter in the bible dealing with food, “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

iv)    If you do not eat it out of faith in Christ Jesus thanking Him for his complete redemption then it is sin.

v)      1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

vi)    Being a Christian is not about saying one prayer one time and then doing whatever you want.

vii)  That’s the doctrine of demons.

viii)            Being a Christian is living a thankful life of faith in Christ. 

ix)    It’s life lived knowing that what I’ve done wrong has been made right through Christ.

x)      Every sin has been forgiven and we are headed toward a day when all things will be united, that means brought together, in Christ.

xi)    That’s Ephesians 1:10 if you’re keeping score.

xii)  Do you think about the fact that even now creation is groaning for redemption? (Romans 8:19-23)

d)     God’s creation can be enjoyed because it is made holy by the word of God and prayer

i)        God has done the work of redemption. His will is sure and the end is sure. Christ will be exalted as Lord of creation and all things will be made new.

ii)      There will be a glorious new earth and there will be a hideous hell.

iii)    The days that play out between now and the fullness of time are days where the good seed and the weeds are being revealed.

iv)    The good seed are those who receive God’s creation with thanksgiving trusting in the word of God and exercising our work of prayer.

v)      So, it is God’s word that sanctifies or makes holy. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

vi)    The truth is that redemption is all encompassing.  The gospel is a mega-gospel.

vii)  Do you live your life according to rules like do not taste and do not touch or do you live the life God has given you believing and knowing the truth?

viii)            Here’s how you know you are living life believing and knowing the gospel: you pray with thanksgiving.

ix)    “The function of prayer is to acknowledge consciously God’s provision” (Towner, 299).

x)      Prayer is not a formality it’s an expression of faith. We pray because we believe there is a creating and redeeming God.

xi)    God, this food is clean because I believe that you are the good Creator and through Christ you are the perfect Savior.

xii)  Our prayer before a meal is an expression of belief in the gospel.  It’s a blessing that 3 times a day we get to affirm God’s good creation and Christ’s work of sanctification.

xiii)            3 times a day you get to preach the gospel to your hungry belly that wants to rule over you.

xiv)            I’m not saying you have to pray before every meal either; that would just make a different list.

xv)  What I am saying is hopefully what the bible is saying in our passage today.

xvi)            Christianity is not about empty rules. Christianity is about right belief in the God who saves through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross.

xvii)          We love and uphold the gospel of Jesus Christ, the word of God, because Jesus Christ is our hope for today and our promise for all eternity.

xviii)        Because we have Jesus, because He’s in control, and because He’s glorious we are a thankful people.

xix)            We aren’t a griping about the food people. We aren’t a complaining about what he said or she said people.

xx)  We are a thankful people.

xxi)            Let me close with Ephesians 1:3&4

xxii)          Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places

xxiii)        Every spiritual blessing is yours in Christ. Do not let deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons rob you of your joy.

xxiv)        Pursue Christ through the living word of Christ.

xxv)          Seek Him and you will find joy. Practice being thankful.

xxvi)        Every day, three times a day, pray for a thankful heart.  It is not a requirement. It is a blessing that we, God’s redeemed people get to pray.

xxvii)      Take advantage of that blessing.  Cling to Christ’s redemption and live a life of faith.

xxviii)    It’s safe to assume all of us are going to leave this place and go sit down for a meal.

xxix)        I want to encourage you to receive what God has created with thanksgiving.

xxx)          Praise Christ and then pass the potatoes.